Vladislav Novozhilov, a Belarus metal musician who performs under the alias ‘Lesley Knife’ in doom metal band Gods Tower, has been sentenced to three years in prison over an online comment about politician Gennady Solovey. 

As Loudwire report, Novozhilov was handed the maximum sentence after penning a comment “insulting a representative of the authorities.” The musician compared the mind of Solovey, chairman of the Gomel regional executive committee, to a hog.

Novozhilov claimed that it was not his intention to insult Solovey directly, and was referencing the writings of 19th-century satirist Mikhaeil Saltykov-Shchedrin.

“For me, an official is a person in the civil service who must respect our rights. He is a representative of the government and the people,” argued Novozhilov. “In the video, I understood that he was an official and a representative of the authorities. I watched his speech, he did not give a clear answer to the citizens’ questions, I was disappointed and therefore left such a comment.”

During the hearing, Novozhilov pleaded for the judge to reconsider sentencing as he was the sole income earner in his family. “This is my first time in such a situation and I don’t know what exactly needs to be said. The fate of my family depends on your decision, because I am the only breadwinner,” he said.

“The wife does not work, the children are underage, we rent an apartment. Therefore, if I am not in the family, she will actually be on the street. It depends on your decision whether I will pay taxes … First of all, I would like to stay with the family and just work. If, of course, someone is interested in what I want … There is nothing more to say.”

Novozhilov is set to serve his sentence in an “open institution”, though political prisoners in Belarus are reportedly subject to forced labour.

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